Two jailed over gems firm fraud: Guppy and partner sentenced to five years

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DARIUS GUPPY, best man at the wedding of Earl Spencer, the Princess of Wales's brother, was yesterday jailed for five years over a bogus robbery and false insurance claim.

The Old Etonian was also fined pounds 533,000 for conspiracy to steal pounds 1.2m from the gemstones firm of which he was an executive director - with a warning that if it were not paid within six months he would serve an extra three years.

At Snaresbrook Crown Court in east London Judge Andrew Brooks passed the same sentence on Guppy's business partner, Benedict Marsh. The sentences come five weeks after the end of a three-month trial.

Marsh and Guppy, both 28, were each given five years for conspiracy to defraud Lloyd's of London of pounds 1.8m, five years concurrently for conspiracy to steal pounds 1.2m from their firm - for which the pounds 533,000 fine was also imposed - and 12 months concurrently for conspiracy to commit false accounting. They had denied the charges.

On 4 March, Guppy had pleaded guilty to three charges of falsely claiming he was entitled to repayment of VAT for bogus gold bullion exports, and Marsh pleaded guilty to one charge. Yesterday the judge imposed a fine of pounds 2,000, with an alternative of 45 days imprisonment, on each charge.

In announcing the fines for conspiracy to steal, Judge Brooks said he had listened to the account given to the court of the information given to the police by both defendants about how they had committed the fraud and had put some of the proceeds in foreign bank accounts. The court had heard that Guppy would not give details of one account in Austria because publicity might 'compromise' someone else.

The judge also ordered that the two men be barred from being company directors for at least 10 years.